The Jivamukti focus of the month is "What is a Person?" Our conventional definition may include only human beings as persons. Is this definition sufficient? If it is, why is it that the abandoned dog being treated more like a thing than a person doesn't sit right with us? Let's probe further. What makes personhood? Is it intelligence? Well, some human beings are mentally incapacitated, but we still agree that they are persons. Furthermore, animals too are quite intelligent. Pigs are as smart as 3-year-old human children. Birds migrate with weather conditions. Is it then the ability to have emotional bonds? Mother cows are as connected to their babies as humans do. When they are separated from their babies, as it happens in the dairy industry, they wail endlessly in anguish. Is it then moral compass? There's this experiment where they tested monkeys. They starve the monkeys and will only give them food if they push a button to conduct an electric shock to other monkeys. Majority of the monkeys chose to starve than to hurt others, especially if they themselves have been recipients of the shock.
So what makes us say that only human beings are persons if human beings and animals are not significantly different when it comes to intelligence, emotions, and moral compass? The expressions of those intelligence and emotions and morality may be different, but they are present across the board. How we assign personhood then boils down only to our perception. We treat animals as things not because they are things, but because of a failure on our part to see beyond speciesism. Yoga practice has the power to change this perception. As we become more attuned to our soul, the less attached we become to outside appearances, and the more we are able to recognize the divinity in all beings, be this being a dog or a dolphin, a crow or a chicken, a goat or a grasshopper.
As we always say, may all beings everywhere be happy and free. May we refer to all beings as all beings, and not limited to our preferred perceptions of that personhood. The next time you practice, offer your intention to a person whose personhood you previously did not acknowledge. It is through our open mindedness and expansion of the heart that we will start to mean "all beings" when we say "all beings".
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.